Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of JOJO RABBIT

Jojo Rabbit, rated PG-13
** ½

My wife Tammy and I love watching movies. But we’ve done something this year that we’ve never done before – we have watched all of the Oscar nominated films for Best Motion Picture. The last one we watched was Jojo Rabbit, which received six Oscar nominations and won for Best Adapted Screenplay.  The film was directed by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), who also won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and is based on the book Caging Skies: A Novel by Christine Leunens. Jojo Rabbit is a quirky satire set in Germany at the end of World War II.
Jojo Betzler, played by newcomer Roman Griffin Davis, is a 10-year-old boy who has completely bought into the beliefs of the Nazis. As such, he believes that Jews are monsters who have horns on their heads. He’s such a believer, his imaginary friend, who frequently gives him pep talks is none other than Adolph Hitler, played mostly for laughs by Waititi. Jojo lives with his mother Rosie, who references God a few times, played by two-time Oscar nominee Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit, Marriage Story). Jojo is told that his father is away in Italy fighting in the war.
Jojo heads off to a weekend Hitler Youth Camp, which teaches the boys how to fight and the girls how to care for wounds and have babies. The camp leaders include Captain Klenzendorf, a disabled German soldier with an injured right eye who drinks a lot, played by Oscar winner Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Fraulein Rahm, played by Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect), Finkel, played by Emmy nominee Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones) and Deertz, played by Emmy winner Stephen Merchant (The Office). Jojo’s best friend at camp is the lovable and plump, Yorki, played by Archie Yates. Continue reading


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My Review of RICHARD JEWELL

Richard Jewell, rated R
***

This film is based on the true story of the Centennial Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics. The film is directed by 89-year-old four-time Oscar winner Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven). The screenplay was written by Oscar nominee Billy Ray (Captain Phillips), and is based on a magazine article by Marie Brenner (The Insider, A Private War) and the book The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle by Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen.
The film is about Richard Jewell, played by Paul Walter Hauser (I, Tonya, BlacKkKlansman, Late Night), the security guard working the Olympics that at first was hailed as a hero for finding the bomb in Centennial Park, and preventing an even worse tragedy. The film focuses on the events after the bombing. But just a few days after the bombing, the FBI and the Atlanta Journal Constitution turn on Jewell and makes him the prime suspect in the bombing, indicating that he fits the profile of a bomber. Continue reading


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My Review of THE BEST OF ENEMIES

The Best of Enemies, rated PG-13
*** 

The Best of Enemies is based on a true story about race relations and school integration in North Carolina. It is a well-acted film that includes a surprising amount of Christian content, but also includes some content issues. In his directorial debut, Robin Bissell, best known as a producer (Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games) also wrote the script, which was inspired by Osha Gray Davidson’s 1996 book The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South.
This film is set in Durham, North Carolina in 1971. Durham is a city with much racism and segregation, seen clearly on the City Council, led by Carvie Oldham, played by Bruce McGill (Lincoln, Rizzoli & Isles). A fire damages the city’s black elementary school and the children are not permitted to attend the white school while theirs is being repaired, despite this being seventeen years after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision about the racial segregation of schools. The NAACP gets involved, resulting in a judge ordering a community forum, or charrette.
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My Review of THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, rated R
***

This is a well-written and acted film featuring a strong cast, but has significant content issues. It is written and directed by Martin McDonagh, two-time Oscar nominee, and winner for the short film Six Shooter.
Frances McDormand, four-time Oscar nominee and winner for Fargo, portrays Mildred Hayes, a recently divorced mother whose teenage daughter was brutally raped and murdered seven months earlier. Mildred lives in Ebbing, Missouri (though the movie was actually filmed primarily in Sylva, a small mountain town in western North Carolina), with her teenage son Robbie, played by Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea). Her ex-husband Charlie, played by Oscar nominee John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), now lives with a nineteen-year old girlfriend.
Mildred is furious with the local police for their lack of progress on her daughter’s case. She decides to rent three abandoned billboards on a rarely traveled road near her home on the outskirts of the town for the purpose of shaming popular Police Chief Willoughby, played by two-time Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson (The Messenger) and his staff, for what she perceives as their ineptness on her daughter’s case. She works with Red Welby, played by Caleb Landry Jones, at the local advertising agency to rent the billboards. Welby’s character will play a significant role in the film.
The billboards become a controversy in the town when the local television station does an interview with Mildred.  A Catholic priest named Father Montgomery, played by Nick Searcy, visits the Hayes home and tells Mildred that he has taken a poll and most folks in the town are against the billboards, and that she should remove the messages. Mildred responds with vitriol toward the priest, taking the opportunity to implicate him in covering up for all priests who abuse young boys.
Chief Willoughby is married to Anne (Abbie Cornish) and has two small children.  [Note:  Abbie Cornish is a strange choice for this role – her Australian accent keeps breaking through – you’re probably not going to find many Aussies in that part of Missouri.]  The billboards prompt him to reach out to Mildred. He tells her that all of the leads have dried up; he’s sorry, but sometimes cases take a long time to be solved.
Sam Rockwell (Moon) plays Dixon, Willoughby’s second in command. He is racist, emotionally immature, lives with his mother, played by Sandy Martin, is often drunk, and enjoys comic books. James, played by Golden Globe winner Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) plays a small but key role in the film.
The film depicts flawed characters. Both Mildred and Chief Willoughby wonder if there is a God, or if there is anything past this life. Even though some of the characters do some very bad things, they are not all bad. The film is rated R for a significant amount of adult language – lots of swear words, some of it of a sexual nature, and includes racist and discriminatory language, some played for laughs, and several abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names. These issues along with the violence may keep many people of faith from seeing this film.
Themes in the film include justice, vengeance, racism, and forgiveness. The film’s unique music score is provided by Carter Burwell and the cinematography is by Ben Davis.
This is a well-acted (especially McDormand, Harrelson and Rockwell), written (including a lot of humor), and directed film. However, with the significant content issues noted above, I can’t recommend it to people of faith.